Pet Tips 'n' Tales©

Easter Bunny Introduces the Easter Llama!

Photo by Dan Olsen©
It's the Easter Llama!  Little "D" loves parades!  Joanne's and Russ's 11-year-old llama loves the adventure and freedom of prancing through the streets and does not appear to notice that he is pulling them.  The couple enjoy the cart rides as much as Little "D".  They especially enjoy seeing the smiles on those who have never had a llama trot past them!

Tales
 
Many of life's fun moments happen spontaneously.  Readers wonder how I meet the pets and people featured in Tips 'n' Tales.  It often goes like this: I spot someone walking their pet like with Joanne and Russ who rode across the intersection in their little cart pulled by a magnificent large white llama.  I chased after them and "accosted" them for the column! See?  Simple!

It's a mystical experience seeing a llama for the first time. Llamas are a confusing cross between a horse, reindeer, and a Teddy bear from a foreign land.  The llama's name is Spanish for, "Como se llama?" which translates into, "What is your name?" So it appears that the first people to ever lay eyes on these magnificent creatures also felt they were a confusing mix of several animals!
 
Actually, llamas are a member of the camel family and called Camalids.  Both camels and llamas have two-toed feet, with a toenail at the end of each toe. Llamas are wonderful wilderness pack animals. Their leather foot pads provide excellent traction and leave little or no damage to the environment.

These long-furred mammals originated in South America and have been used by Andean cultures since the dawn of time for travel, packing expeditions, and meat. Also, their fur, known as "fiber", provides warmth. Their height,(measured from head to toe), is approximately five to six feet, and their weight averages 280 pounds.

Joanne and Russ were married in 1969, and in1972, she jealously looked over the neighbors' fence at their llamas.

"I kept pestering Russ, I wanted a llama," laughs Joanne. "So, he surprised me with one for Christmas!  We had no idea that llamas are herd animals.  So, to keep our 'new baby' happy, we had to, of course, purchase a few more. Our herd grew to 25!  This was way back in the days before llamas were well known.  We could not locate halters for them and had to use the dog's collar.
 
Veterinarians did not know about llamas, so when we had a health question, we had to phone the zoo. At the time, there was no llama registration or shows. Now, there are two associations that have shows to feature the animals, their skills, and their fiber quality.  Also, there was no llama training but it's now evolved into a science."

In the '70's, Joanne went from showing horses to showing llamas. Little "D" has won 4 Grand championships for obstacle skills and cart driving. The shows take place all over the United States.

The obstacles course is very technical. Owner and llama have to work on their skills and their communications.  "The toughest test was in Reno. We had to lead our llamas through the back seat of a limo. It was crazy," laughs Joanne.

"We now have only two llamas who are trained for obstacles that they may encounter in a walk, parade, hospital, nursing home, or elevator. They have to get used to a vacuum cleaner and learn to stand still," said Russ. "We have ridden behind both Little "D" and  Silver  Inca in Portland's Rose Festival and three other towns.  We dress up as Mr. And Mrs. Santa for the Christmas parade and as Easter Bunnies for the Spring parade." 

Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"©
Little "D" out for a walk with Joanne and Russ.
 
Little "D" is 11 years old and Silver Inca is 3 years old.  Llamas and horses have the same life spans. Russ's and Joanne's llamas get vitamins to insure that they stay healthy for years to come.

"Llamas are easy to care for: they eat hay and grass, and are sheared every spring. I give their fleece to friends who are spinners," said Joanne.

And what about the famous "spitting camel" trait?  Does it exist in Camalids? "Yes," said Joanne, "but llamas' personalities vary, just like people's do. Some are nasty, but 99% of them, if you start training at a young age, are very friendly."
 
Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"©

TIPS

This year, Pet Tips 'n' Tales celebrates five years of weekly appearances in The Sentinel and on the Internet. Following are readers' responses:

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